Beyond understanding something in theory, we learn a lot by watching other people do something, assessing what works and what doesn’t, and recognizing best practices. So applying our knowledge to an already conducted oral history interview is critical in bolstering our own interview practice. 

What practices work in an oral history interview? What can I learn for my own interview skills? 


  • Deepen understanding of Oral History best practices by reviewing examples
  • Apply knowledge and best practices skills to evaluate and analyze Oral History

Time and Materials

90 mins 

  • Laptops or Computers (1 for each group to watch together)
  • 3 examples of Oral History interviews (see for suggestions below)


Warm-up (15 minutes):

We ask the participants to suggest criteria to analyze and assess an Oral History interview. We collect ideas on a flipchart. For guidance, refer to the following categories:

  • Form and structure (audio label, protocols observed, evidence of pre-interview meeting, overall flow, your ability to follow)
  • Relationality between narrator and interviewer – demonstrating empathy towards trauma
  • Questioning style and type
  • Questions the narrator should have asked  
  • Overall informational value of the interview
  • Any other observations?


Group Work (35 minutes):

Based on the three Oral History interview examples listed in the materials, we ask the participants to form 3 groups and assign each group an interview.

We ask participants to watch the first 10-15 minutes of the assigned interview and to analyze and assess the examples together according to the agreed criteria. 

One member of the group keeps notes of the group’s discussion, citing specific examples in the interview (including time codes) to share with all the participants in a 10 minute presentation. 


Group Presentations (30 minutes):

We ask each group to share their assessment of the interview, drawing on excerpts from the interview. We ask them not to focus on criticism but to offer alternative approaches (see ‘alternatives method’ in Notes to Facilitators). Each group takes 10 minutes to present and we open the floor for other participants’ reflections.


Plenary Discussion (10 minutes):

We now ask participants to volunteer their thoughts about how watching interview examples helps them imagine their own interview experience.

Guiding Questions:

  • What captured your attention the most about the oral history interview process? 
  • What could have been done better, in your opinion? And what went well?
  • What have we learned through watching these interviews?

Notes and Tips for the Facilitator

  • If you have more time, the participants can screen the oral history interviews in full – either in session or in preparation.
  • The alternatives method consists of immediately providing an alternative suggestion instead of focusing only on critiques. For instance, instead of saying the interviewer didn’t show any compassion towards the narrator, we note that if it were us, we’d take clear and specific steps to show compassion, such as uttering expressions of understanding of feelings and of suffering, or thanking the narrator for sharing these emotions, and other examples that help the learning process and provide alternatives to criticism.

Sources and Further Reading

al-Utruq, Sa’īd Ismāīl. Interview by Mahmud Zaydan. N.D. nn_0001, Al-Nakba Collection, Palestinian Oral History Archive, American University of Beirut (AUB)

Tayyim, Dr. Abdil Jabir Hussein. “Nakba Oral History.” Interview by Rakan Mahmud. September 25, 2011., 

Bechara, Soha. “Untitled Part 1: Everything and Nothing.” Interview by Jayce Salloum (orig format DVM, France/Canada, 2001(1999)),